One day after Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen resigned from her post, a federal judge in San Francisco, California, blocked one of her most sinister policies targeting asylum seekers.
U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg issued a preliminary injunction against Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) — also known as “Remain in Mexico” — a policy that would force non-Mexican asylum seekers to live in Mexico while their immigration cases are pending in the United States. The injunction will go into effect Friday at 5 p.m. EST.
Seeborg concluded that the immigration law MPP hinges on does not apply to asylum seekers and, as ThinkProgress has previously reported, lacks proper protection for vulnerable asylum seekers.
“This case presents two basic questions: (1) does the Immigration and Nationalization Act authorize DHS to carry out the return policy of the MPP, and; (2) even assuming Congress has authorized such returns in general, does the MPP include sufficient safeguards to comply with DHS’s admitted legal obligation not to return any alien to a territory where his or her ‘life or freedom would be threatened’? In support of their motion for a preliminary injunction, the plaintiffs have sufficiently shown the answer to both questions is ‘no,'” Seeborg wrote in his decision.
Immigration groups repeatedly warned the administration that the policy would endanger the lives of thousands of asylum seekers while stripping them of their due process rights.
“The court strongly rejected the Trump administration’s unprecedented and illegal policy of forcing asylum seekers to return to Mexico without hearing their claims,” Judy Rabinovitz, deputy director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s (ACLU) Immigrants’ Rights Project said in a statement. “Try as it may, the Trump administration cannot simply ignore our laws in order to accomplish its goal of preventing people from seeking asylum in the United States.”
MPP was first implemented at a single port of entry in January and under Nielsen, has been expanded to the entire San Diego sector of the U.S.-Mexico border, in addition to the Calexico Port of Entry and the El Paso Port of Entry. As of April 8, over a thousand asylum seekers from Central America have been sent to Mexico to await their cases.
An attorney with the ACLU told Buzzfeed News that while the lawsuit does not specifically address what will happen to the asylum seekers already returned to Mexico, those that arrive in the U.S. for their hearings will be allowed to stay.
Monday’s decision is just the latest in a string of legal defeats for President Donald Trump’s aggressive immigration agenda. From his family separation policy to restricting the number of domestic violence survivors seeking asylum in the United States, the administration has made repeated attempts to target immigrants and asylum seekers, several of which were blocked in court. But a recent report from CNN indicates they plan to continue their efforts: according to multiple sources, Trump wanted to reinstate the zero tolerance policy at the border and separate families even if they arrived at a legal port of entry and were legal asylum seekers.